Movie Review: 'Sleepwalking'
Over the next 10 months arguments will be made as to which actors are most deserving of an Academy Award nomination. Usually it takes several different films to set the bar for the various acting categories. But "Sleepwalking" offers a standout effort for each.
Oscar winner Charlize Theron leads the way with her portrayal of Joleen, a woman who carries deep scars from an abusive childhood. The salve she chooses to cover those old wounds is an innate ability to be with the wrong man. One such disastrous relationship puts Joleen and her daughter Tara (AnnaSophia Robb) on the streets.
Joleen turns to her brother James (Nick Stahl), whose way of dealing with his own childhood abuse is to bury his emotions beneath more baggage than can be found in the hold of a cruise ship. Life gets even more complicated when Joleen takes off to start a life plan she has concocted, leaving James to deal with a heartbroken Tara.
Out of desperation, James takes Tara to the family's bleak farm, still run by his no-nonsense father ( Dennis Hopper). He's a man who believes that the only thing better than verbal abuse to keep a child in line is physical abuse.
Stahl, Robb and Hopper match Theron with memorable performances.
There are times when Stahl's character looks like the weakest person on the planet. Then he shows glimmers of pure strength.
Hopper's supporting performance is chilling. He can deliver a verbal punch with just a few words that would knock even the strongest person off his or her feet.
Robb rounds out this array of standout work with her stellar supporting role. She plays Tara as both a kid who has had to be strong to deal with an absentee mother and as a child who longs for just the simplest gesture of kindness. After her mother leaves, Tara reacts like a beaten puppy each time someone comes to the door. The desperation on her face to be reunited with her mother is then replaced with the pain of another rejection.
First-time director Bill Maher (not the comedian/talk-show host) creates the perfect canvas for his players. Just when it looks like his actors have reached the most depressing point in their lives, he takes them on a journey that shows there is always someplace worse.
Despite the emotional devastation of the characters, the movie does show glimmers of hope. Those glimmers have more resolution because of the Oscar-worthy performances by the cast.
Get showtimes and movie details for "Sleepwalking."